Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff is the author of The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal, a 540 page, 600,000 word compendium comprising 3,700 heavy metal record reviews. Also included are rock lists, a glossary of terms, a concise listing of almost 500 9's and 10's, plus a roll-call of non-metal faves. New to this edition is an exclusive 19 track sampler CD from Century Media. The book is now in its second pressing. For more information, visit the book website or contact martinp@hardradio.com

Fresh Metal

ZZ Top - XXX

Even if I was quite content to listen to Billy burn over a shiny percolation, I'm equally glad for this departure, XXX digging way under for blobulous subcycles, churning dirt, low-toned and tuned, highly unique in a whole different area which underscores ZZ Top's cache as artists. Much of XXX is a type of hard, hard blues, sent underground through this fat, funky and laciviously loose mix, Beard sounding convincingly organic, even if he's been faked (which I doubt), coming off like this ambling percussion shaman, beneath a Gibbons performance which is under this world. There's a couple of very tasteful drum loops thrown in, but they aren't trying to be what they're not, and there is a questionable back end comprising four live tracks, one guesting Jeff Beck, one featuring a truly odd Dusty Hill vocal, one being a pimp-rolling-a-fattie re-jiggle of Pincushion. But throughout the record, live or studio, there's a triple three triangular trio cohesion which is completely ZZ Top, yet not a ZZ we can honestly say we've heard this deliberately and this continuously during any ol' era. Even Billy's performance alone fits this description, the man scooping up mittfuls of the good damp earth and with it, daubing his belly (he really doesn't have one but he should) for peyote-fuled dalliances with the spirit world. Unfornicatingly, this is the least hard rocking record ZZ Top has made since El Loco, but gleefully, you don't notice because there's just so much fraught 'n' frayed fuzz. For this, we must continue to care.
Rating 8

Overkill - Coverkill

All my writer buds are carving this thing, and I guess if you ascribe a harsh standard to something that is easy to do competently, it's not that interesting a record. First the song choice: Motorhead's Overkill is really starting to grate my nerves as the years rumble on. Also, too much Sabbath, Cornucopia being bloodthirsty enough, Never Say Die, just rushed and dull, and Changes: why? Pistols' No Feelings: over-covered and over-rated, as is Deuce from Kiss. The positives: Priest's Tyrant (nice rhythm change-ups), Purple's Space Truckin', the informative and personal liner notes, and ain't it fun to hear the Dead Boys continuing to get ther due (although this version of Ain't Nothin' To Do is weak). Closes with a demo quality '88 recording of a typically uneventful Ramones song which exposes the second grave fault of this admittedly casual affair: its uneven sound quality, most of these songs being funtime wankery from various album recording sessions. Cross polinate these faults and you're left with about three presentations worthy of Overkill's long loud experience in the biz. If you're going to make an easy crowd-pleaser like this boys, there's a whole deeper dig-down gut-check you gotta make.
Rating 4

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